Andrew Dahlgren MID '07 (Industrial Design)

It all started with a broken knitting machine.

“My friend had this old, broken, industrial knitting machine. I started tinkering around with it and was instantly fascinated,” says Andrew Dahlgren MID ’07 (Industrial Design).

He spent the next two years researching knitting machines and the textile industry, connecting with designers and supporters, and going through the Corzo Center’s Creative Incubator/Wells Fargo Fellowship program. That process culminated in the birth of ADMK (Andrew Dahlgren Machine Knitting), a project dedicated to exploring new uses for knitting techniques using industrial equipment and to educating the public about the benefits of knitting.

“I want to show people that knitting is not just about a scarf or a sweater,” says Dahlgren, who also has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design from North Carolina State University and is a senior lecturer in the Industrial Design program at UArts. “Using knitting techniques in a design makes it more sustainable. You can use those techniques in architecture to build structures. My goal is to get knitting techniques widely used, because of their sustainability and flexibility.”

Dahlgren started spreading his gospel of knitting last summer with the Knit Lab, a weeklong installation at the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

“It was like an open house studio,” Dahlgren says of the Knit Lab, which featured three automated knitting machines. “People could come in off the street and see a demonstration, try out the machines. There were actually two people who came in over the course of the week and created a whole project. Another woman, who has an interest in the history of Philadelphia and its textile industry, came in, and now we’re talking about putting together a mobile knit lab to be taken around to different parts of the city.”

The continued existence of the Knit Lab is key to the future of ADMK. In early 2013, Dahlgren plans to open a permanent home for ADMK, possibly near Philadelphia’s Fabric Row, featuring classrooms with knitting machines and a design house where he and local designers can develop ideas and products using knitting techniques.

“Eventually I want to have a product line hosting several different designers under one label,” Dahlgren says. “The idea behind the classroom is that people can come in and take classes, start off by learning the basics, and then go on to the second level to learn more advanced techniques. Also, there are a lot of people out there who can operate this equipment, but can’t invest in their own machine, so I’d like to offer a sort-of membership structure where people can come in to use the studio.”

Education and accessibility are important to Dahlgren. “Anyone can be creative,” he says. “You just need the underlying infrastructure. When it comes to the principles of design, they’re applicable in so many different ways. I want to show people that they can use design to improve their surroundings—their street, neighborhood, city. Really, it’s about empowering people to design their own world.”